In his first remarks as the Republican party’s nominee, presidential candidate Donald Trump pointed to an increase in homicides in the largest cities, including in D.C. as evidence of the instability of the country.
“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump said. “Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60% in nearby Baltimore.”
Is that number true?
Depends on which context you choose.
Washington D.C. experienced a surge in homicides in 2015. There were 162 victims of homicides in 2015, as compared to 105 in 2014, 104 in 2013 and 88 in 2012. The year over year increase from 2014 to 2015 is a 54 percent increase. (The most likely victim of a homicide in 2015 was a 24-year-old black male.)
As of today, D.C. has experienced 71 homicides. (The Metropolitan Police Department’s websites tallies 70 homicides for the same time period. D.C. Witness reached out to MPD earlier Thursday to find out if a case had been reclassified and was told to expect an answer Friday.) Compared to this time last year, the city had 79 homicides– which is a decrease in the number of homicides year to date, but still closer to the numbers seen in 2015 than years before. Though the number is currently 71, there are cases that could still count against the tally for previous months. (There are times when a person will die months or even years after the initial incident that leads to their death, and their homicide is counted on the date they die. There are other times when it takes a few months for the medical examiner to decide a case is a homicide and the case counts for the month/year total when the homicide took place.)
Until recently D.C. had been on track to maintain the same numbers seen in the 2015 spike. For the first four months of the year, the city experienced more or the same number of homicides each month as it had in 2015; but it was in May and June, when the city saw a staggering increase in homicides in 2015 (17 in May, 19 in June, 16 in July) that the 2016 number began to show signs of slowing down.
As others have pointed out, the city’s 2015 and 2016 numbers are still much lower than the highs seen in the 1990’s and early 2000’s: D.C. experienced 482 homicides in 1991.